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How To Equip Your Employees To Protect Against Phishing Attacks

Two men looking sternly at the computer screen.

Ever had an employee succumb to a phishing email? If not, hats off to you! But let's be honest - relying on luck isn't a sustainable strategy.

Phishing emails start most cyber attacks, making up 91% of them. Over a 6 month period in 2022, there were 255 million phishing attacks, which means one happens about every 39 seconds. The cost of each attack is high, putting businesses in a risky situation.

The simplicity of phishing scams is what makes them so effective. All a cybercriminal needs is an email client and a target. As a result, protecting your company has become increasingly challenging.

So, how can you safeguard your team from phishing emails? Don't worry, we've compiled all the information you need to secure your data, devices, and network.

Let's dive in.

Can Anti-Phishing Software Put a Stop to Phishing Emails?

Technical solutions like spam filters can eliminate most generic phishing emails, but some will always manage to sneak through.

At the very least, you should activate phishing email detection and filtering in your email software's settings. The market is now flush with intelligent AI-powered anti-phishing tools, although none can catch every instance of phishing.


What Tools Do Email Vendors Offer?

The two primary email vendors offer built-in phishing blocking tools, forming the bedrock of your anti-phishing strategy:

Microsoft 365/Microsoft Outlook - Microsoft provides a suite of tools including spoof intelligence and implicit email authentication to detect suspicious emails and potential forged senders. These are then filtered out from your users' mailboxes.

Google Workspace/Google Gmail - Google offers similar tools. You can activate advanced phishing detection and decide how to handle suspicious emails - quarantine them for review or automatically move them to users' 'spam' folders.


How About Intelligent and AI-Powered Anti-Phishing Software?

Beyond the tools offered by email software vendors, there's a burgeoning market of AI-powered intelligent phishing detection tools. Depending on your budget, these tools can significantly reduce the number of phishing emails that reach your servers.

Remember, though, no solution is foolproof. It only takes one successful scam to cost your company thousands in IT expenses and damage to your reputation. So, addressing the human element is crucial.


How Can Cyber Awareness Training Reduce Phishing Susceptibility?

Regular training is essential to keep your business safe from this significant cyber threat. Regardless of their role or the data they have access to, any untrained employee can inadvertently invite a cybercriminal into the company network.


What Should Phishing Email Training Cover?

Your training should educate your staff about the types of phishing, signs of phishing emails, how to report them, and why it matters

Wondering what your phishing email training should entail? To ensure your team is well-equipped to spot and report phishing emails, your training should educate your staff about the signs of phishing emails, how to report them, and why it matters. Here's a simple framework:

  1. Appreciating the Threat of Phishing: This isn't just another training session. It's about understanding the devastating impact of phishing scams and how it can affect everyone in the organization.
  2. Decoding a Phishing Scam: Get a sneak peek into the mind of phishers. Learn how they operate, their objectives, and the tricks they use to ensnare you.
  3. Spotting Phishing Emails: Learn to identify telltale signs of phishing attempts, from poor grammar to impersonated domains and urgent requests.
  4. Action Plan for Spotting a Phishing Email: Know who to alert if you stumble upon a suspicious email and why replying is a big no-no.

So, how should we conduct this training? For maximum retention and year-round awareness, training should be regular, digestible, and relevant.


How Should Phishing Training Be Conducted?

To boost learning retention and maintain awareness, training should be delivered in regular, bite-sized modules. While traditional security awareness training is typically conducted via annual slideshow lectures, new online and video-based programs allow training to be personalized and broken down into manageable chunks. This approach is far more likely to improve real-world outcomes in phishing response.

Gone are the days when security awareness was a once-a-year, slideshow-driven lecture. The new wave of learning involves online and video-based sessions, personalized according to individual needs. This approach achieves better results in real-world phishing responses.

The old vs the new:

  1. Annual Company-wide Training Sessions: While it ensures everyone gets trained at once and ticks the compliance box, it's not engaging enough to keep the staff's attention or ensure they remember their training all year round.
  2. Cloud-powered Personalized Training Modules: Online, automated training allows for customization based on job roles, departments, and individual performance. Regular, bite-sized training keeps users engaged.

Video, text, or in-person? A mix of all three would be ideal, allowing employees to choose their preferred format.


The best defence is a good (simulated) offence

Should you phish your own users to protect your company? Conducting regular phishing simulations helps gauge your risk level and trains your team to spot genuine phishing emails.

A simulated phishing email in their inbox leaves a lasting impression on users about the seriousness of phishing threats. Simulating common scams helps users recognize real phishing emails and teaches them how to avoid falling for actual scams.

  1. Use Realistic Templates: Leverage libraries provided by popular phishing simulation solutions.
  2. Customize Emails to Your Organization: Since real criminals target users with personalized impersonations, you should too.
  3. Timing is Key: Just like a real cybercriminal, think about when users are least likely to be cautious, like on Friday afternoons.


The fight against phishing is a constant battle

So, how can you significantly reduce the risk of phishing attacks? Implement the right technical solutions, conduct security awareness training, carry out regular phishing simulations, and minimize potential impacts of breaches. Consider steps like enforcing two-factor authentication, restricting employee access to sensitive data, and applying the principle of least privilege across the business.

Your overall strategy should include:

  • Leveraging spam filters and technical anti-phishing tools
  • Instituting continuous security awareness training
  • Carrying out regular simulated phishing campaigns
  • Minimizing potential impacts of breaches by restricting access and enforcing multi-factor authentication

Ready to help your employees stop falling for phishing emails? Let's talk about launching your phishing awareness training and automated, real-world phishing simulations today.